Vintage Valentine Postcards: Vestiges of a Vanished World

BY  |  Thursday, Jan 31, 2013 2:00pm  |  COMMENTS (1)

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Time to stop worrying about not keeping up any of your New Year’s Resolutions because tomorrow is February 1 and you know that that means — time to start thinking about Valentine’s Day.

Want some help getting in the mood? Drop in at Makeready Gallery and step back to a time when folks sent their beloved a fancy postcard for Valentine’s Day, bedecked with cupids, cherubs, flowers, hearts and other iconic images of love.

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Gallery owner Maureen O’Brien collects early 20th century Valentine postcards, and for 2013 she’s matted and framed 100 of the more unique pieces, mostly from the years between 1906 to 1926. The postcards have been carefully placed in 8 by 10 inch double matte, and are on sale for $20 each. To preserve the archival nature of the items, in some cases the matte backs are hinged to reveal the century-old messages inscribed on the back.

The matted cards make a clever, one-of-a-kind Valentine greeting or gift. With just about everyone whipped into a Downton Abbey-inspired nostalgia for the early 1900s, what could be lovelier than a dainty, gold embossed postcard complete with ladies in long dresses, their hair upswept, a castle in the background?

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One of O’Brien’s favorites is a French postcard with a World War I soldier pining for his faraway love. Others feature specific flowers that early 20th century woman knew carried a symbolic message: pansies for remembrance, ivy for intimacy, and different colored roses for passion, truth, honesty, sincerity.

Designs range from art nouveau to art deco, and images from funny to sentimental. Perhaps surprisingly, many show nearly naked cherubs and cupids in a dizzying array of poses — knocking at doors, shooting at hearts, cavorting in the veld. Much of the artwork displays the expected hearts, birds (especially doves), fancy lettering, scrolled edges, and lots of gold embossing.

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O’Brien’s passion for postcards began when she received her first one as a child, depicting boats on a Morris County Lake. Since then, she’s amassed more than 25 shoeboxes full. Her collection, which grows year-round, also includes thousands of postcards depicting early Montclair and other New Jersey towns.

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Besides making a unique, old fashioned expression of love, I can picture Makeready’s matted – and eventually framed – Valentine postcards embellishing a guest powder room, a young girl’s bedroom or a lady’s dressing room or boudoir (oh, please tell me those do still exist someplace).

Makeready is located at 214 Glen Ridge Ave in downtown Montclair. The shop’s hours are Tuesday- Saturday, 10 – 5, and Sunday 1-5.

1 Comments

  1. POSTED BY danahawkinssimons  |  February 01, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    i’d never heard of makeready, but now i want to go there!

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I think it's great to have another convenient option in the neighborhood. I wonder what size trucks will be going down this partly residential street and how often? It is a moderately quiet street, and will see at least a little more traffic. At least it's certainly prettier than what is there now!

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